Wednesday, December 2, 2015   

Let down by self-centered Chai Ling

Natalie Wong

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Szeto Wah did not think much of student leader Chai Ling, who was among the 400 he helped rescue in the aftermath of the June 4, 1989, crackdown at Tiananmen Square.

The Hong Kong educator and campaigner for workers and teachers regarded Chai as self-centered.

This was after she ignored his suggestion that she keep a low profile for the 10 months she was in hiding and making her way to the West. Instead, she blurted out her views to the news media while on her way from Hong Kong to Paris.

Szeto Wah's younger sister, Szeto Sim, who helped compile the memoirs of the late chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Democratic Movements of China, said her brother decided to join other activists in Operation Yellowbird to help rescue those on the wanted list after gunfire at Tiananmen Square shattered his belief in communism.

She said her brother had a "very bad impression" of Chai as she used her fame for her own ends and had done little or nothing for democratic movements in the motherland, even years after she was rescued.

Szeto Sim said that Chai initially hid in Shenzhen then fled to Hong Kong in 1990 and stayed for a while in the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the French consulate as a refugee before escaping to Paris.

She said that her brother, who died in January at the age of 79 from lung cancer, "expected overseas democracy activists to live a pragmatic life instead of relying on the fame they gained in the democracy movement to earn a living

"Obviously, Chai Ling is not such a person, so he developed a very bad impression of her."

Chai later founded a company called Jenzabar, which provides a web-based intranet application for universities across the United States.

\The software entrepreneur had said in an interview with CNN that she was trying to return to the mainland but had not been allowed to do so.

Operation Yellowbird kicked off in mid-June 1989 and smuggled dissidents by sea to Hong Kong, where local activists arranged exits for them to the West.

Among those rescued was Li Lu, a student leader who later became a long- time partner of legendary investor Warren Buffett.

Szeto Wah had high praise for Li's support for the work of the alliance.

Szeto also recalls in the memoirs the rescue of Wu'er Kaixi, who was No 2 on China's most-wanted list. He said more than HK$600,000 was spent and three attempts made before Wu'er managed to escape.

The first failed when Wu'er could not reach shore due to heavy seas and the second as he could not make contact with Hong Kong activists because soldiers were patrolling his intended escape route.

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